What is Probate?

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Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s heirs are determined, her debts paid, and her assets distributed according to her will, or according to law if she died without a will. The court will appoint a personal representative, previously known as an executor, to administer the estate and, if the deceased person left a will, it will need to be proven valid to the court. After appointment, the personal representative will notify creditors of the probate and inventory the assets of the deceased person. The personal representative will then proceed to pay any creditors and taxes and eventually distribute the deceased person’s assets to the appropriate heirs.

Probate Disputes

While the probate process seems fairly straightforward, disputes do arise. For example, the validity or authenticity of a will may be contested and the actions of the personal representative in administering the estate may be challenged. Further, creditors and other parties may make claims against the estate for any debts of the deceased person that were not paid prior to her death. While you may not expect your heirs or your family members to contest your will or challenge your personal representative, it is not unusual for conflict to arise in poorly planned estates.

Specificity Can Help Quell Disputes

If you’ve discussed leaving a specific item to a particular person, you must give the item to that person in your will to ensure that person receives the item.  When people lose a loved one, items with rich sentimental value – especially valuable items – can suddenly take on more importance and can lead to disputes during probate over whom should receive these items. To ensure none of your family members feel left out or slighted, it’s useful to discuss with them which sentimental pieces you intend to give them. You might even want to give away these items while you are living.

Mediation Can Help

If a dispute arises during probate, the court doesn’t necessarily have to be involved in resolving the dispute. An experienced probate attorney can be invaluable at helping everyone see the big picture and come to a settlement without court intervention. Further, a formal mediation process can be highly effective in helping to resolve stubborn probate-disputes outside of court, sparing the parties and the estate the costs of litigating disputes.

Consult with an Experienced Fargo Probate Lawyer Today

If you are involved in an active probate dispute or would like to minimize the chances that one will occur in the future, discuss your situation with Stephen Welle of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss as soon as you can. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer, call our office today at 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 (toll-free).

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